Goodbye Google Plus! (Sort of)

What you need to know about the recent change

Do you remember the last time you checked in on Google Plus? Take a moment. I’ll wait. If you’re like me, and most people out there, your answer very well could be never or maybe a small chuckle.

Just in case you’re unaware, Google Plus was launched in June of 2011 as Google’s foray into the then booming social media market. This was actually Google’s 4th attempt at a social media platform. If you don’t remember the other 3, it’s ok, neither does anyone else (they were Google Buzz, Google Friend Connect and Orkut, for the record). At the time, Facebook saw this as a big threat to their company. After launch, the numbers grew quickly for the platform. The problem was that a large portion of the users that were joining we’re doing so because Google Plus was connected to other Google services, namely Gmail. As people created Gmail accounts, they were also creating a Google Plus account. So, even with the booming numbers that the platform was seeing in terms of users, there was very little engagement. ComScore estimated that the average user spent 3.3 minutes on the site compared to the 7.5 hours spent on Facebook. The New York Times even referred to it as “a ghost town”. A few attempts were made by Google to add some life to the platform but ultimately these attempts did not help. On the plus side (pun intended) two Google products that have seen success were spun off Google Plus to become stand-alone products. Those were Google Photo and Google Hangouts.

I know you’re probably saying to yourself “Cool story, Allen, but what’s the point?” Before we get to that, I want to add one more piece of history. In 2015 Google combined Google Plus with Google My Business as a centralized way for businesses to manage their online presence within Google.

Now let’s bring it up to the present. On October 8th Google announced that there had been a data breach with Google Plus back in March and as a protection against this in the future they would be shutting down the consumer version of Google Plus in August of 2019. Aside from this being a really weird way to announce the shut down of the platform, one of the big things to note here is that this was just the “consumer version”. I won’t touch on the data breach since it’s outside of the scope of this, but you can read The Wall Street Journal article where this was exposed.

The long and the short of this is that although the consumer portion is shutting down, the business portion will actually continue. In the same post where the breach and demise of G+ was announced, Google mentions that they will be looking to enhance the business use for the platform. No details were given, but there it is a good chance this could revolve around being a corporate communication tool.

As an inbound marketer, I look at all of this from an SEO and social perspective and try to understand the impact from there. In the past there was some value in making use of a G+ page for a business or school outside of the business listing aspect, which is very important. Primarily, G+ could be used as a place to post articles and pages to help boost the ranking signals for that page or post. Social is not a known official ranking signal, but there was evidence that it could help with the page authority. Much of this diminished over time though as the area became flooded with posts so more of the value comes from getting the page in front of more eyeballs and getting people to click through. So, from a strictly SEO and social sense, this is just one less place to worry about trying to put stuff if you were still doing that.

From a business perspective, we’ll need to keep an eye on how Google will be evolving G+ for businesses in the future. In the meantime, keep your business listings on G+ and Google My Business up to date and accurate since that’s where you’re going to derive the most value.

Now, let’s take a moment of silence to mourn the end of Google Plus. I’m done. Are you?


Allen Harkleroad, Manager of Inbound Marketing